Monday, December 22, 2014

the time I slept in a drug den

I ended up hopping from accommodation to accommodation (literally); my maimed foot forcing me to remain in one of the most touristed areas of Cambodia for the Christmas and New Year's holiday.

Sihanoukville is essentially divided into four separate beaches. Victory, a beach only Russians frequent. The resort area, with the nicest beaches although, consequently, 2 kilometers away from civilization... it is also where the outdoor stairs and I collided.  Serendipity, in the heart of all the action, wildly crowded and the least enticing of the beaches I visited. And Otres, a tiny hippy village on the water, 5 kilometers away from Serendipity with nice beaches and a relaxing atmosphere.

I left the resort area on Christmas day. With the inability to walk properly, I needed to be closer to amenities. I then moved accommodations three times in five days. Out of necessity rather than choice. Availability was limited in that area. So I made due. Until I had enough of Serendipity and its sub-par beach front.

Fortunately Sammy had enough of it too. We met our last night in Serendipity at the hostel we booked into at the same time.

I saw her in the lobby the following morning with all her belongings.

"You're checking out too?" I asked.

"Yeah, I've decided to try out Otres," she replied.

It was exactly where I was headed too. Since neither of us had a room lined up, we decided to grab a tuk-tuk together and see what our options were.

Going from one hotel to another along the beach, we were greeted with nothing but "no vacancies". Until we met an older man who was checking into a hotel we were told had no available rooms.

"I actually just checked out of a place further down the road," he said. "From what I gather, the room is available, but only for tonight. I'll have my boy give you the name of the hotel if you're interested."

We were. We walked over to the car where the man said his boy was, to find a young Cambodian man in the passenger's seat.

Sammy and I looked at each other. He wasn't a type of boy we were expecting. The filthiness of the older man had us second guessing if we even wanted to check out the hotel he suggested.

We went anyway. We were running out of options.

Thankfully, it was quite nice. But we only had it for a night.

Sammy decided to leave for Vietnam the following day.  Whereas, I had to stay.

But she joined me that evening in my quest for a place to rest my head for at least a few more days until my limp was less pronounced.

Again, it was proving difficult.

"You girls looking for a place to stay?"

We turned to see two Western guys mounting their motorbikes.

"I am. Not having much luck though."

"There's a hostel near where we're staying," one of the guys stated. "It's about a mile inland though. But I'm pretty sure they have availability."

"What's it called? I may as well check it out."

"I think it's called the Hacienda or something, but it's on our way, so we can give you girls a ride if you'd like," the other guy offered.

"Sure, okay," came my response before consulting with Sammy.

She gave me an incredulous look.

The grime of the hostel was less pronounced in the darkness. But they did have one bed available.

"It's $3 a night," the attendant said. "And it's available for as many nights as you'd like."

"Just $3 a night?," my eyes widened. Shrugging my shoulders I added, "well, may as well."

Funny thing about sunlight. It gives you a better view of your surroundings than what darkness offers.  I set my luggage down next to the bed I was directed to the following day with a strong hope that the sheets actually were clean. From the looks of the room, nothing else had been in years.

"This is actually the nicer dorm," a girl greeted me as she walked in and sat on her bed. "There's another dorm here that's free. Well, you pay $3 the first night, but all other nights are free as long as you keep a tab at the bar. It's crowded. Something like 18 beds. The snoring there is ridiculous. But, I mean, it is free. I was staying there for a while until this one guy was making it impossible for me to sleep."

From what I gathered, the Hacienda is home to the long term traveler. Ones down on their luck. With no more money for housing or food, not to mention enough money to return home. Somehow, though, they always had pocket change for drugs. Weed being the softest of the drugs floating around the compound.

I stepped out of the room and was greeted by an 40-something year old Polish man on the porch who looked at me, smiled and exclaimed, "I'm flying!" before passing out.

I gathered up my laptop, e-reader, ipod and any other necessity I thought I'd need, crammed it in my little backpack and decided from that moment onward I'd spend my every waking moment at the beach.

Upon checking out of the hostel a few days later, a guy who slept in a neighboring bed started up a conversation with me as I packed away all my belongings.

"I need to get rid of these," he said midway through the conversation, throwing a package of pills on top of his bag.

"What is it? Why do you need to get rid of it?" I played along in his little conversation. If the tenants weren't taking drugs, they were talking about it.

"Vicodin. I've been taking too many."

"How many?"

"30 a day... plus 10 Xanex."

My eyes widened. "How is your stomach not bleeding?"

"I... I... I don't know. I'm just really depressed."

"Why don't you just throw them away then."

"Because they're drugs!" he stated as though my question was obviously a stupid one.

"How much did you pay for it?"

"$4 for 40 pills."

"And how many do you have left?"

"About 25."

"Look. I'll pay you $2.50 for the rest of those then."

"What are you going to do with them?"

"Throw them down the toilet."

He paused for a second. Looking down at the pills and then back at me. "Nah, that's okay. I'll just take the rest of them tomorrow." 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Memories of Christmas Past

It was mid December of last year when I entered Cambodia. Yet, it doesn't feel as though a year has passed. Certain memories seem as though they occurred just yesterday.  Like one revolving my foot, for example.

This poor foot is no amateur in the field of travel-related disasters. Rewind the clock to March of 2009.  Barcelona.  I sat on the back of a motorbike with a silly boy. The end result was less-than-pleasant. My foot being the one to face the brunt of it all, trapped under a pile of machinery as we lay sideways on the ground. The poor thing grew three sizes that day, and remained so for weeks. A long time passed before it finally forgave me.

Returning to present day (present day, last year, that is), I had been walking on a numb leg and foot since a week into touring Myanmar because of a lower back issue, which consequently, still isn't resolved today (the real present day).

Feeling melancholy after having visited the Killing Fields, and having no desire to stick around the streets of Phnom Penh, I traveled south to the coast the very next day. December 24th, to be exact.

The price of the hotel I booked was astronomical for the locale. Granted, the powdery white sandy beach was worth it.  And it was the the busy holiday season, after all, so I took what I got.

Although dark out when I returned in the evening after a day out, it was still relatively early. Instead of heading to my room, I decided to walk down to the outdoor lounge area and listen to the sounds of the waves lapping against the sand.

With the light of the moon as my only guide, I made my way down the outdoor stairs. But with no feeling in my foot and minimal visibility, I missed-stepped. My foot twisted and I followed it to the ground.

My gift to myself last Christmas season was a torn ligament, and a self-mandated 10 day stay at the beach.